And so, to 18 Doughty Street for my web TV debut. Isn’t it amazing how fast things move in this electronic age? It only seems a few keyboard taps ago that I was blogless and clueless of broadband TV’s existence, but now I have more links than a medieval knight in chain mail and a place on this emerging i-station’s new sofa. But what is it like and why would one do it?
Naturally, vanity is always part of anyone’s desire to go on television. Shamelessly, I’ve had a few high-profile ego fluffings over the years – ITN, the GMTV sofa, several celebrity-based compilations on the Beeb and Channel 4. Hear this – I even went on America’s Geraldo Show in the 90’s in front of a whooping New York studio audience and live viewing figures equal to the population of several big countries. But, once the buzz is gone, it’s pretty grim pontificating about the Spice Girls or some celebrity you knew for an hour. I’ve given it all a wide berth for years.
Vanity alone was hardly enough to up-load me onto 18 Doughty Street. At least for now, its viewing figures are tiny, but growing. More than anything, I was fascinated to see it all in motion, to experience a part of this revolution, to wiggle about on a piece of television that exists at the thinnest extremities of the Long Tail. And no matter how few people are watching, live TV is live TV, with cameras, lights, microphones, so it is still a challenge to think on your feet – or on your bum on a sofa with the other stooges. In this case, they were Chicken, Cicero and Boysie (I think we’re on first name terms now).
So, how did I do? No idea, really. There’s something missing in my Safari software on this Mac, so I can’t watch my debut, but I know I enjoyed it, in a bizarre, self-indulgent way. I chipped in on some subjects, expressed some opinions, which is not bad for me. I’ve spent my professional life interviewing people, which requires you shut right up while someone else spouts off, otherwise you spend hours transcribing your unwanted voice. Hence, it was quite a novelty to switch off the enforced mute and have two hours on the stage of fringe theatre live TV. Let’s face it, no mainstream TV station would seek my views on Tony Blair’s apology for slavery, the Litvenenko poisoning, crime by black people, etc. Heck, if I had been listening for the first twenty minutes to the impassioned dispatches from Nick Boys Smith, instead of scanning the titles of biographies on the book shelf and generally looking around, I might even have delivered some instant wisdom on Welfare Reform. That alone might have produced a stunning piece of Colemanball’esque waffle.
As we all sat there, with the dead of night approaching, I couldn’t help but feel we were in a kind of ‘Lost In Translation’ timeless nothingness. I don’t mean that in a negative way, yet we were all talking earnestly, animatedly, about some serious stuff, but to exactly whom and why? Iain Dale’s affable, laid back anchorman delivery added to the virtual vibe, as if it were honed from the Bill Murray school of skilful underplay. Without question, it was fun to be Lost In Broadband at 18 Doughty Street and I wish them every success.
When it was all over, I wondered if my excited emptiness was roughly how the people who did the first television broadcasts felt when much of the world was devoid of TV sets. Did they blink back to reality and tell their friends about this intriguing new communication experience, only to get the reply: “Hmmm. But would you not rather talk to a big audience – like on the wireless?”